Saturday, December 21, 2013

Movie Review: "Philomena" (2013)

Movie: "Philomena"
Director: Stephen Frears
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
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Inspired by the unbelievable true story of one Irish woman's pursuit to find the son that was taken from her when she was 15. Philomena (Judi Dench) is a young Catholic girl living in a convent who got pregnant out of wedlock. After giving birth, she was required by the convent to sign a paper that would give up custody of her son at any time. In order to make up for her sins, she was required to work off her penance for many years. One day, her son Anthony was adopted by an American family and she never saw him again. Decades later, a disgraced political journalist named Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is forced to write a human interest story, something that he considered beneath him, in order to get a job. He learns of Philomena and her situation and reluctantly begins digging. As more facts become revealed, Martin learns there may be a little bit more to the story and that he may also have a personal connection to it. Together, they travel to America in order to search for the truth about Philomena's long lost son.

We knew little about this movie going into it and both really liked it a lot. The character of Philomena has a trusting innocence about her. She believes people at face value, people who tell her they are doing things in her best interest when clearly they aren't. Her devotion to her religion plays a large part in her naivete, as well as the fact that she is not a well-traveled person. This film is spectacularly acted by not just Judi Dench, but by Steve Coogan as well. His character of Martin is the antithesis of Philomena: he despises religion, he's analytical, he is hardened by the world, and he is not very trusting. He's also not particularly friendly, either. They are thrown together by the universe and they manage to help one another out in many ways. Their on-screen chemistry is really wonderful together. Given the subject matter, it is a lot funnier than we expected. It is interesting to note that Coogan wrote the screenplay as well as produced this film.

If you came across this story, as Coogan's character did, and you have the means, you realize that this is the type of story that truly needs to be told. People should know stuff like this happened at some point in history because it was so horrific. Not only that, but it was commonplace many decades ago! Can you imagine? This movie manages to tell the story about a very serious subject matter and somehow finds a way to do it entertainingly. It's the perfect balance of heartbreaking drama and sarcastic wit.

It seems like an underdog of a movie with so many big hitters coming out in the last month of 2013, but we hope it gets the recognition it so very much deserves.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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